H. M Knadjian.

The eternal struggle; a word picture of Armenia's fight for freedom online

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they would be willing to surrender.

Herr Echart and Nadim Bey decided to drag the cannons
up to the old citadel, which commanded a good view of the
Armeian quarter and to try them.

The first few shots were successful. The balls fell right
among the houses. Some exploded, some did not but little
damage was done. The breech of one of them burst, killing
the gunners ; the muzzle of the other fractured scattering frag-
ments of iron all around.

What Herr Echart had guessed was true. The Armenians
were terrified, especially the women, but soon their fears
were allayed. Pastor Akkelian gathered the pieces of the shells
and going around showed them to the people and told them
not to be excited: "See, I am handling them; they are per-
fectly harmless."

The Turks concentrated their attack on one front. The
open courtyard of Massmanah where the German factory was
located, offered a good starting point. A large crowd gathered
there under the direction of Herr Echkart. Besides the indus-
trial institution of rug making, which employed hundreds of
men and women, the German missionaries had orphanages for
boys and girls. They had been great friends of the Armenians
and had helped them financially and educationally, but at this
crisis, Herr Echart turned against them. His conduct was not
in accordance with the general policy of the Mission.

Dr. Lepsius, the president of the society, did his utmost,
pleading with the Turkish authorities to stop the deportations.
The antagonism of Herr Echart was purely individual. He
told me once that he was a captain in the German army. At
any time that his country was at war, he had to give up the
mission work, don his military uniform and go on duty. He
was doing that now ; helping the Turk, the German's ally, and
fighting the enemy, the Armenians. It did not enter his mind
that he was helping to destroy the people, among whom he


had labored for years. He did not spare even his most intimate
friends. Excepting a number of workers and servants who re-
mained in his establishment, he refused to give shelter to
those seeking his protection.

Opposite Massmanach was the Tamir position, command-
ed by Levon Roomian, an intrepid and fearless young man,
in his early twenties, hardened by many adventures against
the Turks. He suspected that something was brewing behind
the high wall. Let them come ; he was ready.

The assault began with a fearful loss of life on the part
of the Turks. But they had a skillful leader. He had stationed
snipers at strategic points. They shot down the person that
appeared above the parapet. From the windows of the fact-
ory, from the roof of the building, from the temporary ram-
parts, bullets showered the Armenian position. Neither side
dared to come out of their breastwork. They were on a par
with each other. For a long minute the firing ceased. Levon
ventured to the corner window to survey the situation ; for a
second he was off his guard. Eckhart's chance had come. A
bullet from an unseen loophole in the wall shattered Room-
ian's forehead. He was well known among the Turks. His es-
capades were the talk of the coffee houses. With a shout of
triumph the rabble rushed at the defenders, urged forward by
their commander. They stormed the barricade, leaped over
the breastwork and pursued the retreating Armenians. Word
reached Aryan of what had happened. Taking his reserve
force, he hastened to the place of the disaster. By the time he
encountered the enemy, they had arrived at Sahakian corner,
midway between the Evangelical Church and Massmanah, the
defenders disputing every foot of ground of the enemy's ad-
vance. The new arrivals heartened them. The street here was
so narrow and packed with humanity that they could not use
their guns easily. Aryan had brought with him a few gren-
ades. These he threw into the Turkish crowd creating con-
sternation. At the same time he called out to his men to draw
their daggers and fall on the enemy. So unrelenting and ruth-
less was the onslaught, that the Turks lost courage and turned
back. Soon the street was cleared, and the dead and the
wounded were heaped on each other. The Armenians re-occu-
pied the barricade and began to repair the damage.

Herr Echart was furious. He cursed the rabble for their


cowardice those who would run away before a handful Ar-
menians, one-twentieth of their number.

About this time it so happened that a large Turkish army
under the command of Fakhry Pasha was passing through the
district twenty miles south of Ourfa, on the way to the Bagh-
dad front. The Mutasarif appealed to him to send a contingent
of soldiers to help subdue the insurrection. Fakhry refused to
turn aside from his course, but when he heard of the disastrous
consequences of using the old guns, he consented to lend them
a cannon with half dozen gunners.

The Armenians heard of this. The leaders knew what
devastation a modern cannon could work on their positions.
They called a council of war. There were present the two
commanders, the heads of the troops; Arusag, Khanum and
Mariam from the women's division.

The prospect was discouraging. They tried to surmise
where the cannon would be installed. If they knew they could
arrange their defenses accordingly. Tulfudoor Hill was well
protected; there was no danger on that side. The old fortress
on the south of the city had a good command of the Armen-
ian quarter, but it was noted that the way up was so steep and
rough that a modern cannon with* its terrific weight could
not easily be transported there. The only practical position
would be the eastern side, behind the Turkish houses, where
there was an open field, visible from some of the barricades.

"In that case it would be difficult to defend ourselves,"
said one of the leaders.

"The situation is critical," added another.

"There is no reason to despair," rebuked Muggerdich.
"We will find a way out of it. We will fight to the last drop
of our blood. What was our determination at the beginning,
when we started this rebellion? It was to die fighting, doing
as much damage to the enemy as we could. The lion at bay is
more dangerous. Only weaklings give way."

The words of Muggerdich deeply affected all those pres-
ent and they were once more filled with new enthusiasm and

"Comrades, there is no alternative," declared Khanum.
"We are facing death. Let us encounter it fearlessly. At the
start, when we resolved on this war, did we not know that we
were delivering our death sentence? Let me remind you of the
words of Shakespeare :


'Cowards die many times before their Death;

The valiant never taste of death but once.

Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,

It seems to me most strange that men should fear;

Seeing that death, a necessary end,

Will come when it will come.' "

Again the company was electrified with new courage.
Cannon or no cannon, they had chosen to die fighting. Who
is the most intrepid man or woman? He or she who is not
afraid of death; who has decided to die with honor; who pre-
fers to be sacrificed for freedom, rather than live a life of
slavery. These men and women were of such stuff of which
heroes are made.

Sarkis, the younger brother of Muggerdich, who was
blind in one eye, asked if it would be possible to put the can-
non out of commission by dislocating some parts of it.

"Yes, it is possible," answered Aryan, who had been si-
lent until that moment. "I was planning the same thing in my
mind. The cannon could be handled in such a way that it
would be rendered useless. I am going to ask for volunteers to
accompany me for this work. Who will come with me?"

"There is no need to go in a group," said Sarkis. "I am
ready to do the job alone, if I knew how to demolish it. If I
am caught, at least I shall be the only one to be sacrificed."

"You are a brave soldier, Sarkis," said Aryan. "I will
tell you what to do. The modern cannon is built in such a way
that the breech can move from right to left. The wheel that
controls these movements turns on an axis. This in turn is
kept in its position by a screw, which is situated just under
the hammer. If that screw could be removed, the gun becomes
dangerous to those using it. Can you take away that screw?"

All the comrades were looking fixedly at Sarkis. They
could see his one eye sparkinlg and felt that this fearless
young man would be able to perform the duty undertaken by

Sarkis asked a few questions and learned his lesson. That
very night putting in his pocket the necessary tools, he climb-
ed over the ruined walls of the city, passed the Turkish cem-
etery, crept unseen by the sentinels and took the road leading
to Serouge, where the gun was located. After walking about
three miles, he descried a group of soldiers who were camping


along the side of the highway. When he came nearer, he saw
that only one was awake guarding the cannon.

Sarkis approached cautiously. Stealing through the rocks
he came to the place where the soldiers were resting. The
guard, unaware of any danger, was leaning on the wheel of
the gun, smoking. Suddenly a dagger plunged into his heart
and without a sound he fell dead. Sarkis, feeling his way, found
the hammer of the cannon and the screw under it. Taking a
strong screw driver from his pocket he tried to unscrew it.
At first it would not move. Gathering all his strength, he turn-
ed it. Gradually it yielded, until it came out altogether. He put
it in his pocket and rose to go. In the dark he touched the foot
of one of the sleepers. The man awoke and wanted to know
who had stepped on his foot. When he got no answer, he
sprang from his place and grasped his rifle. He saw the dead
body of his comrade and called out to the others.

The rifles began to roar. They were shooting aimlessly,
as they did not know what had happened, or where the enemy

Sarkis, meanwhile, thinking that he might be caught or
killed and the screw found by the soldiers, took it from his
pocket and threw it down in the valley among the stones.
Holding his gun he stood behind a boulder and waited. When
the soldiers fired again, he dropped bullets in their directon. He
was sure that at least one of them found its mark. The soldiers
withdrew and took position behind the rocks, suspecting that
the attackers were many.

The cannon was brought to the city on the following
day. It was useless.

Another time the Turks tried to storm the Poss Baghnic
front. This position was considered the weakest. To enter the
Armenian quarter, one had to pass under a covered archway.
The barricade was established outside that entrance. The
street was very narrow and only a certain number of defenders
could be stationed there.

The soldiers from Fakhry Pasha's army, who had been
frustrated in the defense of the cannon, led the attack. They
were inflamed with anger and wanted to show what they could
do. With their heavy rifles, discharging volley after volley,
from a distance, they succeeded in demolishing the barrier.
The rabble entered the archway, where they were compara-
tively safe.


The surviving Armenians were left between two fires.
Surrender was out of the question. They fought valiantly
against the regular soldiers and a multitude of bashibozouks,
until the last man fell (taking a toll from the enemy of twice
as many dead).

The Turks rushed in great numbers in the direction of
Saint Mary's Cathedral and only halted at the thick walls of
the building. Muggerdich was there waiting for them. He had
a way of roaring like a lion. He would put his fingers to his
mouth and blow in imitation of a trumpet, sending a shiver
through the mob. His roaring was heard, but they did not
know which way to look for him. Suddenly a number of gren-
ades exploded among the crowd. Terror stricken, they took
to their heels. The Armenians pursued them, while from the
windows of both sides of the street bullets showered upon
them. Muggerdich was in his element. Elated by success he
roared louder and louder. "Do not run away you cowards;
you murderers of women and children. Stand and fight." To
his followers, he said: "Remember the '95. The hour of veng-
eance has arrived. Show by an honorable death that you are
Armenians, worthy descendants of your heroic forefathers."

Once more raising his throaty voice, he charged the en-
emy with such violence that they did not stop, until they took
refuge in the Turkish quarter.

Arrived at the barricade, Muggerdich ordered the place
to be rebuilt. After seeing that everything was in order, he
turned to go back to his headquarters. On the way he felt
faint. He was wounded in his thigh, and had lost much blood.
Comrades helped him and led him to the hospital.

Khanum Ketenjian had thirty young women in her con-
tingent. They were all well trained as fighters and proficient
in marksmanship. They had gathered their long hair under
woolen caps and were dressed in man's clothing. Each one
carried poison pills, to use in case of being caught alive. They
had determined to commit suicide in order not to fall into the
hands of the Turks.

Khanum presented herself to Muggerdich and asked per-
mission to attack the Turkish guard house situated near the
lake of Father Abraham and destroy it. "The zaptiahs," she
said, "in that guard house are continually harassing our po-
sition on that front and doing much damage. They go up on


the roof of the mosque and shoot the men behind the barri-

Muggerdich, although admiring the women's courage,
was diffident to give his consent. "It is a tough job, Khanum;
are you equal to it?"

"We will try it, sir. If we are sacrificed in our attempt,
you may be sure that our lives will cost dearly to the enemy.
I have my plan here on this paper. I hope you will approve of

Then she showed him a chart indicating the location of
the guardhouse, with the adjoining streets; where to take
position and when ; how to begin the assault and so on. Mug-
gerdich was looking at the sketch with undisguised amaze-
ment. "Who drew this plan?" he asked.

"We did," she answered.

"Very well, then, you have my permission. Only be care-
ful. You all realize what it means to fall in the hands of the
Turks alive."

"No fear of that, I assure you."

Khanum, with a smile, gave a military salute to her be-
loved commander and departed.

Let me tell here in passing, that the Lake of Father Abra-
ham is considered holy by the population of Ourfa, both
Christian and Moslem, on account of a tradition related about
it. From of old, it is supposed that Ourfa is the Ur of Chaldees
of the Old Testament, where Abraham was born. When God
revealed himself to the Patriarch, he began to preach the only
and true God. His fellow countrymen, who were idol wor-
shipers, would not accept his preaching. He continued, how-
ever, to proclaim the message of one true God, until a fierce
persecution started against him, instigated by the priests of
the tutelary god of the city. They got hold of him and raised
him on a high pile of wood to make a burnt offering of him
to their god. When the fagot was lighted, Abraham stood up,
stretching his hands to heaven, prayed to God, in whom he
believed, to open the eyes of these poor, ignorant idolaters, to
see the truth. Suddenly, from under the pile of woods, gushed
a spring of water which quenched the fire. The spectators
were amazed, seeing the miracle. They took Abraham down,
and believed in the God whom he preached.

It is the lake that was formed from this spring of water,
that became sacred until this day. During the Christian cen-


turies, a church was built on its shores and theological sem-
inary was established in the garden adjoining it, the ruins of
which can be seen even today. After the seizure of the city by
the Mohammedans, the church was converted into a mosque;
and as the Moslem religion recognizes Abraham as the Father
of the faithful, they believed in the tradition and kept the
waters of the Lake inviolate. It is full of fish, which are not
allowed to be caught. Moreover, it is considered a virtuous
act to feed them. Consequently they are so tame that they
follow in shoals anyone walking along the shore, with the ex-
pectation of food. They can be touched almost by the hand.

There was a bridge near the lake on which the Turkish
guardhouse was built. About an hour after midnight, Khanum,
with her followers, took a position around the guardhouse,
stationing them on various strategic points. She could see
from a distance that two zaptiahs stood sentry outside the
entrance of the building. Two girls, pointing their guns at the
sentinels, noiselessly followed her. When they were sufficient-
ly near, she gave the order and they fired. Both bullets found
their mark and the men fell to the ground. Those inside awak-
ened and ran to their arms.

The women surrounded the guardhouse. The officer in
charge cautiously approached the door to find out what had
happened. A bullet flattened itself against the wall near where
he was standing. At the same time, a woman's voice ordered
him to surrender. The Turk felt insulted. What, to surrender
to a woman! He had heard that the Armenian women were
fighting shoulder to shoulder with the men ; but to be assailed
by them in his own station was intolerable. He gave the order
to charge and the inmates, a dozen zaptiahs, lifting their weap-
ons, contemptuously rushed out. A volley from an unseen en-
emy wrought havoc among them, throwing half of the men to
the ground. The survivors retreated and took shelter in the

There followed a regular warfare. The Turks firing from
the windows into the darkness outside; while the Armenians
had a good target, dropping their bullets inside the rooms.

After a while the firing ceased from the guardhouse.
Khanum, stealing through the darkness, approached one of
the windows and looked in. There was no sign of life. Only
dead bodies lying on the floor in various positions. She enter-
ed to investigate. The body of the officer could not be found


anywhere. She saw a back window wide open. He had escaped
with his life.

Khanum took a whistle from her pocket, blew the call for
assembling. When the fighting women came out from their
hiding places and surrounded her, she read the names from a
small book. All answered present, without an exception. Then
they gathered the guns and the remaining cartridges of the
Turks and set fire to the guardhouse. When the flames were
well spread, and they were assured that the building could
not be used any longer, they left the scene of fighting in mil-
itary order, singing a song of victory.

From the Armenian position, higher up the hill, the men,
who were watching all the time, saw them returning in tri-
umph, met them with shouts of joy.

On the following day, when the Turks discovered what
had happened, they decided to make short work of the rebel-
lion by concentrating their main forces in one position and
give a crushing blow to end this foolery of continued fighting
once for all. Their anger had no bounds especially on hearing
from the escaped officer that the destruction was wrought by
a company of women. It was unthinkable that a group of wo-
men dared to attack a government institution and massacre
men in military uniform. The Moslem dwellers of the neigh-
boring section of Calaboyun, a fierce and blood-thirsty race
of Kurds, were exceedingly excited, taking this as a challenge,
because the scandalous act was perpetrated in their vicinity,
they swore to revenge the insult, by putting the men to the
sword and capturing the women alive.

The attack was organized by the captain. The assault
was so fierce that, though they lost many, they succeeded in
taking the Lake Abraham position. Encouraged by this first
success, they advanced, with the help of new arrivals, and en-
tered the Armenian quarter. Here they met the women's con-
tingent, who disputed every foot of ground against their fur-
ther advance.

A party of Turks seeing one of the side streets unguard-
ed, ran towards it, intending to cut the line of retreat of the
women. They turned the corner quickly and accomplished
their purpose. The women were left between two fires, fight-
ing desperately and losing very heavily. The intention of the
attackers, however, was to capture them alive. In spite of the
rain of bullets, they advanced in large numbers and at last


took captive only five girls. Their hands were tied behind their
backs and they were sent out of the fighting line to be left
under the care of the captain.

At this time, Muggerdich was suffering excruciating pain
from his wound. His whole leg was swollen because of lack
of proper medical attention. He could hardly move. When he
heard of the disastrous consequences of the Turkish attack
on the Lake Abraham position, he sent orders to the Abrilian
band of the reserves to come forward and join battle. They
took their stand in the street adjoining the walls of the Cathe-
dral and fought like tigers, selling dearly every step of the
enemy's advance. But there was no limit to the hostile mob.
Newcomers took the place of the fallen.

Abrilian himself performed great acts of bravery. Stand-
ing before the mixed crowd, he shot them down unsparingly,
but at last he fell dead from the many wounds he had received.

Once more word was brought to Muggerdich of the sad
plight of the Armenian fighters and the utter annihilation of
the Abrilian band. He threw his blankets away and ordered
his horse to be brought. He climbed on it with the help of
his men and ran to the next redoubt and told its defenders to
follow him. Now at the head of this group was a young man,
Khosrov Touloughian by name, a survivor of the 1895 mas-
sacre, who had seen his father and uncle slaughtered cruelly,
and had been an eye witness to the violation of his mother by
a dozen demons in human shape. He was consumed with a
longing for vengeance and was waiting for a chance to have
his accounts settled with the Turk. He gladly gathered his
companions and followed their commander.

"Boys, are you ready to die?" asked Muggerdich. "I am
leading you to certain death. The enemy is one hundred times
more numerous.

"But before you fall, see that you square accounts with
him. Forward, then." Mustering his fast ebbing strength with
a last desperate effort, he let loose his usual deep toned rous-
ing battle cry. The rabble heard and recognized it. They al-
ways associated it with an irresistible onslaught. They were

Khosrove saw his advantage. Running through the maze
of houses, they took positions on both sides of the street where
the mob was thickest and by a flanking attack, cut the retreat
of the advance party. When the Turks heard shooting behind


them, they were utterly demoralized and ran helter-skelter
in unknown blind alleys and were disposed of easily. The main
body, however, turned back, pursued by Touloughian's band,
until they were clear beyond Lake Abraham redoubt. Mugger-
dich returned to the hospital almost dead. The Band gathered
together to take the roll-call. They had lost heavily. But where
was Khosrove? He was not among them. They found him
leaning against a wall breathing hard. Blood was running
from his many wounds. Gradually he opened his eyes and a
smile spread over his face. Looking at his comrades, he said,
"I have avenged my father and mother. I die contented. Do
not give way. Fight on until the end."

Meanwhile another act of this tragic drama was being
played in the garden just over the bridge. Captain Nadim Bey,
seated on a chair, had the five captive girls in front of him,
and was questioning them.

"What is your name?" asked the Captain, addressing the
young woman, who had an orange colored cross on her cap.

"Khanum," answered she.

"Khanum what?"

"Khanum Ketenjian."

"Ha! I have heard of you. Are you not the daughter of
Toros Ketenjian?"

"I am."

"How will you show your gratitude, if I spare your life?"

"By going back to continue the fight," answered Khan-

"The cause of the Armenians is hopeless," said the Cap-
tain. "They cannot last much longer. The cannon, which we
have ordered, has already left Aleppo. It will arrive in a day
or two. A dozen shells, well aimed, will be enough to destroy
the entire Armenian quarter. What will you do then?"

"We will die fighting," replied Khanum.

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Online LibraryH. M KnadjianThe eternal struggle; a word picture of Armenia's fight for freedom → online text (page 20 of 21)